May 30, 2012
/ by ckettmann
Hashtag marketing – how you can leverage #blogchat and other hashtags as virtual chat rooms and communities
One of Twitter’s greatest virtues is its ability to function as so many different tools for so many different people. For individuals, Twitter can be a platform for reading the news, connecting friends and networking with professionals. For brands, Twitter can be a platform for distributing content and connecting with consumers.
But what’s most remarkable is that the number uses of Twitter as a tool for everyone has never been stagnant; it continues to evolve.
Its biggest #trending evolution? Twitter chats.
Twitter chats are real-time open public forums in which anyone can participate. And the environment in which Twitter chats occur are the perfect time and situation for marketing professionals to connect with an audience of potential customers, like-minded individuals and experts in particular fields. Here’s how you can get involved:
Planning Your Twitter Chat
1. Choose a Hashtag: Finding the right hashtag takes the right blend of branding and scope. First, consider whether or not to include your brand’s name in the hashtag. While having your name out there during a chat might seem important, consider the length of the name, and its value to the conversation. Having a long hashtag could limit the conversation and each message, given that tweets are limited in size from the get-go. And it may not be necessary to include your brand’s name anyway; you are, after all, hosting the chat. Remember: it’s about the chat, not the brand. Choose a hashtag that’s relevant, informative and catchy.
2. Create an Outline: Going into a Twitter chat without an outline, especially your own, is never a good idea. It’s a sure way to lose any audience you’ve built already – or one you’re just starting to build. Still, the conversation can never be scripted, so your outline should be a list of points you’d like to discuss or questions you’d like to ask. Set a starting time and ending time, then come up with a couple questions you’d like to discuss with your audience during that time. Try your best to stick to the time window originally proposed: don’t let the conversation fizzle out, and don’t worry if you don’t get to everything. Save the rest for the next chat.
3. Build the Hype: Although Twitter chats are a marketing tool for brands, brands have to market the Twitter chats themselves in order for the chats to be successful. The best way to market a Twitter chat is to build the hype well before the starting time. Especially if you’re trying to establish a regular Twitter chat for your brand, your first chat should be well broadcasted in advance. First, tweet about it. Let your Twitter audience know that you’ll be hosting it at least once per day, well before the start. Connect with individuals on Twitter; monitor similar hashtags, and let people know you’ll be hosting a chat that deals with the topic they’re tweeting about. You can even contact celebrity tweeters to join you on the topic you’ve chosen, a great way to build more hype around your event. Outside of Twitter, make sure your chat is listed in this Twitter chat database. You can write a blog post about it, citing the times of the chat, the hashtag, and further steps for people to get involved. Let people know what they’re going to find at your chat. Tell them what they’ll learn and how they can get more involved. Don’t hesitate to make it a big deal; welcome everyone.
4. Monitor the Chat: Hosting a Twitter chat isn’t like being an emcee at an awards ceremony; which is both a positive and negative. Instead, it’s more like sitting in on a relatively unregulated town hall forum in which anyone can speak at the same time. While this provides an excellent democratic platform with which anyone and everyone can interact, there are no sensors, and the conversation never stops. But don’t despair; after all, you have your outline. The initial conversation will grow from your first question or introduction. From there, see where the chat goes. Respond to comments and engage other users who are involved. To make monitoring a chat easier, use a filtered search on Twitter itself, or a tool like Moniterr, which allows you to monitor a hashtag in real time.
5. Record the Chat: While Twitter provides a real-time platform for conversation between anyone, anywhere, it’s difficult to recall the conversation once it has happened. As part of the marketing of your Twitter chat and building its lasting value, you’ll want to find a way to record the conversation outside of Twitter. This will make it easier for anyone to go back to it for any reason. A tool like Twebevent monitors a hashtag you provide, building a chat room-like atmosphere around a Twitter chat. You can even embed the conversation in a third party site after the chat is over. Another useful tool for recording Twitter chats is Storify. Storify allows you to quickly embed multiple social media blocks into a blog post that can also be embedded onto a third party site. The advantage to Storify is the ability to add notes and explanation text, along with supporting YouTube videos or other social media posts, alongside the Twitter chat.
Twitter is a two way street; it allows you to connect to your audience and your audience to connect with you. And Twitter chats are the ultimate example of this. How have you used Twitter chats in the past? Do you have any additional tips for first timers?
This is a guest post by Thomas Samph, a writer at Grovo.com, an online Internet education and training platform where you can learn everything from how to use Tumblr to Pinterest.
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